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Month: March 2019

PERSONAL BRANDING JAMMIN’ — TAKE 2

PERSONAL BRANDING JAMMIN’ — TAKE 2

Try it.  Google “personal branding.”

Wo.  See that?  The little search ‘bots retrieve 297 MILLION results!

Since leadership guru Tom Peters first presented the concept of marketing yourself and your career just like a brand in that article, “The Brand Called You” for Fast Company magazine in 1997, the thing has developed some legs and has taken off running in all directions.

Click this button to read the article its own self:click-here

A whole industry has grown up around the idea.  The multitude of human potential advice-mongers keeps telling us that mega-success comes from self-packaging and telling a better, hand-crafted story than the next guy.

FOCUSING ON THE GIFT-WRAPPING

Before Peters dropped the PB-bomb, typical do-it-yourself self-help management techniques that were bandied back and forth were about self-improvement and developing inner qualities of character and all that other old-school, boring stuff.

Now, it seems, it’s all about self-packaging and “controlling” your image and massaging your message.

One of the best YouTube videos I’ve seen about brand strategizing is this one, published in 2011 by BINA LA, featuring veteran marketer and brand promulgator Sasha Strauss, the founder and manager of the consulting firm, Innovation Protocol.  In it, he gives “$100,000 of Brand Strategy Advice” to a roomful of up-and-coming peeps.

It’s a wonderful, rollicking talk.  It touches on all the points about how, you too, can be a brand.  Woo-hoo!

(Notice, especially, that he says the big companies spend a heck of a lot of money and buy up a lot of people’s time and talent to work this thing.  Okay.  Onward.)

WHY “THEY” SAY IT SHOULD MATTER TO YOU

We keep getting bombarded by the same message:  We have to stand out from the crowd.

Repeatedly we are admonished:  We need to create buzz-i-ness.

We need to be seen.  Our ideas must be heard.  The social media – that insta-FB-tweet-post-pin algorithmic meta-dance — will take us to the place where we will be the Center of Attention.

And that, it says here, will get us to being showered by the Big, Big Bucks.

money
“Money” by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
We will be secure in the knowledge that when folks need something done, all this trumpet-blowing and drum-banging is going to mean that they will inevitably think of US.

We’ll be “Top-Of-Mind.”

This is because we are in control of our own story and the image we’ve inserted in other people’s minds.

(Then, of course, we can don our super-hero gear and go get ‘er done.)

PB jammin’ takes time, we are told.  It takes hard work.  It can cost a bunch too.  After all, there’s a heck of a lot of competition out there and they’re all doing the very same thing we are.

The noise level keeps rising.

And all of those stories are clashing and crashing together.  ACK!

REALLY, YOU GUYS?

It really has to make you wonder, though.

When everybody’s talking and trying to make their message louder and stronger and more and it’s all predicated on self-promotion and outshining the other guy, doesn’t that mean that it gets really hard to hold a normal, one-on-one conversation?

And if everybody’s shouting at each other, what do any of us actually hear?

If everybody is trying to “stand out,” doesn’t that mean that we are all sort of blending in?

In the analog world, a crowd of folks, each one trying to be more different and more avant-garde than the other guys probably end up looking sort of like a cosplay convention or maybe a Mardi Gras parade.  Right?

injured-jack
“Injured Jack” by David Morgan via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
I mean, it’s fun and all, but what’s the point?

All those guys in the white lab coats tell us that each of us humans are pretty much made up of the same bundle of needs and wants, strengths and vulnerabilities, patches of assorted bits of sanity and neuroses, and ordinary as well as extraordinary bits as every other human.

They tell us that our individual differences and eccentricities are often less noticeable than our collective similarities.

A punk rocker who “stands out” in a crowd of polka fans would just be a regular sort of guy in a punk rock concert crowd.

Since business and everyday living runs more smoothly where there is a “meeting of the minds,” it is probably a good thing that we are a lot more alike than not.

Still and all, we are not clones of one another.  Even minor differences of mindsets can cause major misses when two minds are trying to intersect.

M…M…M…MAYBE IT’S SORT OF RIGHT

It is certainly true that showcasing the parts of ourselves that we are particularly proud of is more likely to attract the attention of folks who are looking for those very qualities we most want to continue to use and grow.

I’m not saying that the PB-jammin’ dudes are wrong.

I am saying, however, that it isn’t the packaging that brings joy and gladdens the hearts of the recipients of a gift.

It is not the packaging that delivers on the promises made when you ask for somebody’s trust.

The packaging means squat when you are in the middle of the muck trying to knock out a solution to a gnarly problem.

gift-wrapped
“Gift Wrapped” by Matthew Kenwrick via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
What your customer wants to know, really, are two things:

  • Can you do the work well?
  • Will it solve their problem so they can get on with doing their own work?

The shiny party paper and pretty bow are nice, but, so what?  How much of your time is it worth?

It seems to me that your time would probably be better spent making sure that you really are doing the work that your customers need done the way they need it done and that you are developing better and better skills at doing it.

HEADS-UP, CONTROL FREAKS

The one thing most guys who are into promoting personal branding sort of gloss over is another truism:  You cannot control any other person’s perceptions of you or your story.

How they put together what you say is not in your control.  Remember that ubiquitous disclaimer, “Individual results may vary.”

You can round up and herd other people’s perceptions.  You can influence them.  Maybe you can even drill an image into someone else’s head.  Whatever.

perceptions
“Points of Perception” by vannio via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Know, however, that if you fail at delivering on your promises, none of the packaging stuff is going to matter one whit to your customers.

You will hear about it, and so will anybody within the reach of that social media thing you’re trying to game.

THE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS

There are important questions embedded in that Tom Peters’ article, which was meant to be a wake-up call for those of us playing among the ranks of the corporate minion-hordes to break free from the need to conform to and in our workplaces.

questions
“Questions” by elycefeliz via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Peters was giving us a heads-up about a basic truism, I think:  Conformity does not promote creativity.

He was trying to get us to understand that as contributors in the “new marketplace,” each of us is responsible for owning who we are on the deepest level.

He told us that we had to “cast aside all the usual descriptions that employees depend on to locate themselves in the company structure.”

Forget job title, he said.  Instead, ask yourself, ‘What do I do that adds remarkable, measurable, distinguished, distinctive value?”

Forget your job description, he said.  Ask yourself, “What do I do that I am most proud of?”

For me, at least, the personal branding advice Peters was presenting in that article more than a dozen years ago was less about you being noticed by other people and more about what you do, the meaning it has for you, and why it has value for other people.

He tells you to ask yourself “the same questions that brand managers at Nike, Coke, Pepsi or the Body shop ask themselves.”  Look at your product or service (and at your own self) and figure out what makes that product or service (or you) different from the run-of-the-mill in 15 words or less.

What specific features do the product or service (or you) have that benefits your customer better than anything else?

If your answer doesn’t “light up the eyes of a prospective client or command a vote of confidence from a satisfied past client, or – worst of all – if it doesn’t grab you,” Peters says, you have got a problem.

Basically, you don’t know why you’re doing what you do.

question-mark
“Question mark” by Kanser via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
Applying the “feature-benefit model” to your own self, Peters suggests asking the following questions and he explains the benefits to the customers that arise from that feature:

  • Do you deliver your own work on time, every time? (Your internal or external customer gets dependable, reliable service that meets its strategic needs.)
  • Do you anticipate and solve problems before they become crises. (Your client saves money and headaches just by having you on the team.)
  • Do you always complete your projects within the allotted budget? (Cost overruns are not a help.)

Put together the answers to the feature-benefit model questions and the earlier ones about what you do that rings your own chimes.

Then, Peters says, ask yourself, “What do I want to be famous for?”

Doing all that helps you screw your head on right.  You will have figured out why your present and your prospective customers will probably like what you do.

You’re on your way to getting your story straight, which makes it a heck of a lot easier to live it.

There is a bunch of stuff in the article about how to call attention to your answers and conclusions once you’ve done the exercises.

Of course, there are.  The guy is a marketer-extraordinaire.

Maybe, though, that part is optional.

AN OLDER KIND OF PERSONAL BRANDING

Whenever I run across another of the “personal branding” motivational rants, I can hear my grandpa grunt, “Only wala’au (talk, talk, talk)…no CAN li’ dat.”

(Papa was a great believer in doing and solving problems.  Talking didn’t cut it for him when the results didn’t match the boasting.)

It was a reminder that wala’au is only air.

What counts, all the old guys said, are the results of the work of your hands and your mind.

these-hard-worked-hands
“These hard worked hands” by Carlos via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
It is an old-fashioned idea.  One that’s been around for a very long time.

Before there was a thing called “personal branding,” everybody worried and gnawed on the concept of “building a good reputation.”

Reputation is what people remember best about you, they said, and other people’s memories and the stories they tell about the way you walked along with them and others they know are what can make it a good one.

The thing that builds your reputation is the way you walk.

walk
“Walk” by Peter Blanchard via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

MEMORIES ARE LONG

Every once in a while, I am reminded of how long other people’s memories are.

The Light of My Life and I stopped into a private craft sale put together one Sunday morning by a group of local craftspeople in an outbuilding at the home of their friend and patron.  There were three painters, a journeyman photographer, a beginner jeweler, a masterly potter and a stone carver.

I knew the stone carver, Ho’aka, who used to hang around the booth at the hotel and festival craft shows that my late husband Fred (a self-taught, traditional Hawaiian stone-carver) and I used to set up to market Fred’s decidedly esoteric and traditional art form.

My part in all of that was to learn the stories of the ways the ancient ones worked with the stones and to explain how and why Fred tried to emulate their ways while he sat on a mat on the ground doing a stone-carving demonstration.

One of my best things was organizing little do-it-yourself stone polishing sessions where kids who visited our booth could take away a small, child hand-sized ‘ulumaika game stone that they had worked on themselves using one of the flat polishing stone boards I set up on mats around our space.

Another activity involved print-making by pressing acrylic paint-covered carved stones onto torn rectangles of crafts paper.

Guided by the pictures in the old books I’d found, Fred carved ancient-style petroglyphs onto those stones. The kids loved the results when they played with the stones.

rainbow-chief-petroglyph-stone
“Rainbow Chief” carved by Fred A. K. Kanoho

I made simple display boards, wrote up the mo’olelo (stories), and wowed the visitors to our booth with cultural tales during a time when the Hawaiian cultural renaissance was just starting to grow.

It was timely, and we sure had a lot of fun with it.

After Fred’s death, Ho’aka went on to find master traditional stone carvers in the islands, apprenticing himself to them.  He got good at working stones.

As the Light of My Life and I were leaving, Ho’aka gave me the highest compliments one local can give another.

He told me, “Netta, I want you to know.  We remember.  We remember how you told the stories.  We remember how you guys kept the stories alive.  We remember….”

Twenty years after that chapter in my life had ended, I was given this gift.

It made me cry…and the funny part was that what he said other people remembered was not what I thought I was doing.

Here’s a poem:


I’M FAMOUS

HEY!

Look-a-me!

I am FAMOUS!

EVERYBODY says so…

All the them that’s in the know.

(If YOU don’t know, then who are you?)

Me, I am famous!

 

HEH-HEH!

Look-a-me!

Watch me twist and twirl,

Gyrating in the swirl

Of Other People’s noticing,

Glowing in the spotlight

Incandescent like a mirror-ball.

I am famous!  Me!

 

HO-WOW!

Look-a-me!

Hey…look-a-me, look-a-me!

Hey, hey…why’d you stop?

Don’t you like me any more?

Gee…don’t you know?

I’m famous!

 

Ummm…where’d you go?

 

Awww….

They’re all gone.

There’s nobody looking.

Guess I’m done, my race all run,

Washed-up, a has-been…

Me…

The formerly famous.

created by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit: “Dying Fire” by Frank Crisanti via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0] 

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

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JOIN THE LONGEVITY REVOLUTION

JOIN THE LONGEVITY REVOLUTION

In America, dating since the original Social Security Act of 1935, retirement and making it intact to the “Golden Years,” (when you are supposedly free to stop working and “enjoy” lazing around in the little bit of life span you have left once you stop working) has been a gold-standard goal.

gold-watch
“Gold Watch” by Tim Ellis via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
The paradigm among the “human resource” contingent of the time, was that you’d be a tired, shopworn bit of humanity and could be sidelined like a piece of obsolete old equipment that was still in working order but kind of irrelevant.

It made a horrible sort of sense, that — especially after the rise of the Industrial Revolution when people were often seen as interchangeable parts in an ever-more-efficient system of production and productivity.

Young people were encouraged (and even brow-beaten) into going for and hanging on to “secure” and possibly meaningless-to-them jobs and to diligently squirrel away the nickels and pennies that were left over from paying for the lives they were living in order to build up a retirement fund for the winter of their life.

THE WHOPPING BIG ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

There is only one problem.

Since the retirement thing was first conceived in the early 1880’s by Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck of Germany – the first-of-its-kind social insurance program — all the smarty pants in labs and such have been pushing our physical envelopes.

We are now living longer and longer lives thanks to all of the advances in medicine and technology.  People are living decades after the official start of the “Golden Years.”

It has been one of the major societal goals of every culture, after all.  Who doesn’t want to live long and prosper?

god-of-longevity
“Shouxing – Chinese god of longevity” by Anne Petersen via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
When the then-new concept of “retirement” was first proposed, our human lifespans were not much more than three-score and ten.  It was expected that your body’s expiration date was about 70 or so years after you checked into this world.

Therefore, it was assumed that if you retired at 65 it was quite likely that you’d fall over dead very shortly thereafter.  The social program that helped you live your life as an old person was sustainable, it was thought.

It sort of worked for a while, but that’s no longer happening.

Now there’s a whole generation of older folks wondering whether whatever stack of money they’ve hoarded (if they ever got around to it during their “active” years) will last long enough and, for sure, the government subsidy thing keeps on shrinking as the cost of living heads on up.

The bills don’t stop during the “Golden Years.”  You still have to eat and you still need a roof over your head and your body…well, it’s been lived-in.

It breaks down.  Maintenance costs.

And, even more depressing, we’ve all figured out that people can really get bored spending twenty-some years slouching around doing nothing much.

Frankly, the so-called freedom of not-working sucks.

A new freedom is beginning to replace it as the Ultimate Goal:  the freedom to find and keep working at something that holds meaning for you.

ON TO ANOTHER PLAN

For the past twenty years and more author and social entrepreneur Marc Freedman has been working on fostering the idea of the “encore career,” a second vocation in the latter half of one’s life.

The idea dates from 1997 or 1998, when Freedman’s San Francisco-based nonprofit called Civic Ventures (since renamed Encore.org) introduced the notion.

Freedman’s non-profit developed into an innovation hub bent on “tapping the talent of people over 50+ as a force for good.”

By the time he gave the following talk at TEDxDrexelU in 2013, Freedman had co-founded “Experience Corps,” mobilizing thousands of Americans over 55 to improve the education of low-income elementary children.

He was spearheading the presentation of the Purpose Prize, an annual $100,000 award for social innovators in the second half of life.

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) now runs both of these programs.

Freedman was also the author of four books about encore careers and the longevity revolution and a tireless proselytizer about the value of utilizing skills developed over a long career to help society.

In his talk, which was published in 2013 by TEDxTalks, Freedman pointed out that people are living longer and the old Golden Years plan is no longer working so well.

Since that talk, Encore.org has developed the Encore Fellowships program, a one-year fellowship helping individuals translate their midlife skills into “second acts” focused on social impact as well as the Encore Network, a coalition of leaders and organizations that help people turn those longer lives into an asset.

Freedman and his colleagues have written other books and continued to develop programs.

The concept has taken off.  Millions of older adults, aged 50 years and older, are working on delving into and developing a “second act” as the end of their primary careers draws closer.

A 2009 video published by Encore.org, “Timothy Will, 2009 Purpose Prize Winner” is a moving presentation by one of the winners of the organization’s Purpose Prize who leveraged his experience and skills into a way to help his Appalachian neighbors get back to the land.

The video was one of many.

The encore career has become a way to combine personal passion, social purpose and a paycheck, as Freedman is wont to say.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE RESOURCES GATHERED TOGETHER AND DEVELOPED BY ENCORE.ORG:

click-here

The upshot of all of this is that Freedman has been marvelously successful at instigating the Longevity Revolution.  Many others have taken up the banner as well.

Opting for an encore career has become a trend, even a movement.

Many baby-boomers and others who’ve reached (or are approaching) retirement age choose to do some other thing that fulfills their need to grow and to continue to engage with the world as well as to help pay the bills that just keep on coming.

A CONFESSION:  I GOT SIDE-TRACKED

Instead of getting more deeply into the nuts and bolts of this very interesting topic, I was side-tracked — sucked into a book written by master storyteller Jim May, TRAIL GUIDE FOR A CROOKED HEART:  Stories and Reflections for Life’s Journey.

This quintessentially human book is soul-satisfying, meandering through stories from May’s personal life (with lots of old wisdom-tales thrown in) that present us humans in all our glory and flat-footed stubborn.

More than anything else, it illuminates the value and the uplifting power of Story in our human journeys.

After working in construction, then becoming a teacher and a counselor, May gave in to his passion for telling a good story, following a family tradition that produced many a fine raconteur.

For more than 25 years, as a professional storyteller, May presented stories at story-telling festivals and events that drew tale-spinners from around the country together in the United States, Canada and Europe.

He’s appeared at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tennessee four times and has participated in England’s oldest and most respected folk festivals at Towersey and Sidmouth.

One of his favorite things was appearing on the Studs Terkel radio show in Chicago.

In 2000 May was named by his peers to the Circle of Excellence, the highest of honors for the storytellers in the National Storytelling Network.  Before that, he won a Chicago Emmy for a WTTW-Channel 11 production of his original short story, “A Bell for Shorty.”

The man is good.

The following YouTube video, published by JustStoriesVideo in 2012, features Jim May remembering the day that Holocaust survivor and president of the Illinois Holocaust Memorial Foundation Lisa Derman died of a massive heart attack onstage at the Illinois Storytelling Festival while she was telling her story of survival.

It is a moving tribute as well as a testimonial for the power of Story.

ON-TRACK ONCE AGAIN (SORT OF)

It occurred to me after I had digested all of this, that May is also a fine example of a person who developed a personally satisfying encore career that worked well for him.

The thing he exemplifies is what happens when you look for (and find) another Why to live, and then do it well.

In the video honoring Lisa Derman, May mentions in passing his belief in the value of the wisdom of elders – wisdom that is part and parcel of the stories they tell.

Throughout history, in every culture, the stories the old people tell link the young ones to the procession of ancestors.  They present ages-old human dilemmas as well as solutions and guidelines about strategies and actions that have worked in the past.

an-elder-speaks
“An Elder Speaks (Whaea Kātarina Daniels, Te Ū Hui-ā-motu),” by New Zealand Tertiary Education Union via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
These wisdom stories can be an enormous help to someone who is looking for clarity or a new direction.

One of the chapters in May’s book starts with a quote from James Hillman in his book, THE FORCE OF CHARACTER: And the Lasting Life, a stunning reflection about life’s second half:

“The final years have a very important purpose:  The fulfillment and confirmation of one’s character.  When we open our imaginations of the idea of the ancestor, aging can free us from convention and transform us into a force of nature, releasing our deepest beliefs for the benefit of society.”

That chapter in May’s book is titled, “Signal Trees.”  In it he tells stories about the mentors and elders that he is grateful to for their stories, their wisdom and their support.

THE THING ABOUT SIGNAL TREES

Signal trees are said to be a Native American way of shaping tree saplings to mark significant locations.

According to the lore surrounding the signal trees, they are a part of a navigational system through the forests and waterways of northeastern and southeastern tribes throughout North America.

The manipulated trees, we are told, mark sacred gathering places, trails that were important, a fresh water source off a main route, indications of deposits of flint, copper, lead and other minerals important for medicinal and ceremonial purposes as well as portage points and linkages to other major trails

The three-tonged bur oak tree in the header picture is considered to be an Indian Signal Tree.  It’s even labeled by a bronze plaque, even though there is still some mystery surrounding its purpose.

The button below takes you to a Summit Metro Parks article that explains more about the tree and about signal trees in general.

click-here

As May points out in his book, if you’ve lived your life well, age gives you gifts – patience, tolerance, resilience, a long-term perspective, varied life-experiences and well-developed skills — that are worth sharing with those who come after you.

And that is the point of this new Longevity Revolution:  You, too, can become a signal tree.

An encore career has been described as “a new chapter of work,” something you move on into after you have spent many years at one kind of work, often quite successfully.

The encore career can be a deepening and broadening of the career you’ve already built, using the stockpile of skills you’ve mastered and the lessons your experiences have taught you that will allow you to reach a different level in your field as a self-employed freelancer and entrepreneur, a consultant, a coach, or a mentor.

It might be about you finally starting out doing your own passion your own way and finding ways and opportunities to keep on playing in this new field that enriches your life and fills it with meaning.

An encore career could be a position as a volunteer supporting some solution to the social ills around us or toward fostering some good thing you want to see grow.

It can also be a way to stay active and to feel useful.

And, of course, an encore career very often is a way to help fund your “Golden Years.”

For whatever reason, the encore career has become a significant and growing economic trend and movement that the baby-boomers are spearheading these days, it seems.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The following YouTube video, “Encore Careers:  From Social Trend to Social Movement,” was published in 2012 by NextAgenda as a promotional piece.

What’s even more interesting is the more recent development featured in this next video, “Encore Careers: How to Find Your Perfect Job At Any Age,” published by The List Show TV in 2018.  It features Jared Cotter of The List, the national Emmy award-winning show that looks at pop culture and currently trending ideas.

The Longevity Revolution continues to grow and spread.  It’s even crossed generational lines.

Here’s a poem I made honoring a friend who wandered through a series of foster homes in her youth.  She made her baby dreams come real and her life is now one of great joy for her and for the ones she embraces.


ORPHAN CHILD

Orphan child stands apart,

Always the stranger,

Unfettered, untied.

The wanderer has

No place to lay her weary head,

No place that enfolds her, no warm, no light.

No one tucks her away from the cold, the dark.

 

She tells herself she’ll make her own place,

A place where all the dispossessed,

The abandoned ones,

Can come and find

Someone who sees them as they are,

Someone who is not afraid to hold them in the dark,

Someone who loves them even though they are not like

All the other ones – the orderly ones who march

All in a line, step by step,

Trying really hard to all be the same.

 

In her place, there will be no fear

Of hard eyes and cold mouths,

Tearing your heart to bits,

Unerringly finding the sore places

With tongues of ice and fire.

All of those demons will be exorcised away.

She’ll send them to some other place

Where they can play their games

With others of their own kind.

(She won’t leave them to wander

Like refugees in the night.)

 

Cruelty will be banished

In the laughter and the joy

Of seeing ones who reach out

To hold you warm and safe.

That’s what she says, anyway.

And we will play, she says,

Oh, how we will play:

Games of beauty, games of grace,

Gales of laughter and soft, loving tears

From hearts that overflow.

 

It could happen. 

Yes, it could.

by Netta Kanoho

Header picture credit:  “Akron Signal Tree” by Greg Habermann via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

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